Scheduled Tribes in India

Scheduled Tribes in India

  • According to Article 342 of the Indian Constitution, the Scheduled Tribes are the tribes or tribal communities or part of or groups within these tribes and tribal communities which have been declared as such by the President through a public notification.
  • Article 366 (25) of the Constitution of India refers to Scheduled Tribes as those communities, who are scheduled in accordance with Article 342 of the Constitution. This Article says that only those communities who have been declared as such by the President through an initial public notification or through a subsequent amending Act of Parliament will be considered to be Scheduled Tribes.
  • The Scheduled Tribes account for 10.43 crore, constituting 8.6% of the total population of the country’s population (89.97% of them live in rural areas and 10.03% in urban areas). Scheduled Tribes are spread across the country mainly in forest and hilly regions.(2011 census)
  • The essential characteristics, first laid down by the Lokur Committee, for a community to be identified as Scheduled Tribes are –

a) indications of primitive traits;
b) distinctive culture;

c) shyness of contact with the community at large;
d) geographical isolation; and
e) backwardness.

  •  75 Particularly Vulnerable Tribal Groups (PVTGs), who are characterised by:-

a) pre-agriculture level of technology;
b) stagnant or declining population;
c) extremely low literacy; and
d) subsistence level of economy.

  • The Constitution incorporates several provisions for the promotion of educational and economic interest of Scheduled Tribes and their protection from social injustice and all forms of exploitation.
    • Before independence, tribals had a history of common ownership of land, forest resources and the produce. Economic autarky.
    • Inequality in tribals societies was not as striking as non-tribal caste societies.
    • They were, over the centuries, systematically dominated by rulers who claimed sovereignty over their lands and controlled them often ruthlessly from far off areas.
    • Slowly, non-tribals started to settle on tribals land, and when British rule made land a saleable property vast amount of land was passed into non-tribal hands.
    • Classes emerged among tribals.
    • They were declared encroachers on the very same land that they had lived on for centuries.
    • This dispossession from land and restriction of control over forest during colonial era pushed tribals into labor market.
    • By the beginning of 20th century they were pushed into plantation sector and newly coming industries in Bengal, Assam and Bihar.
    • They mostly did low or unskilled jobs getting very little economic compensation as they had little access to modern education.
    • After independence numerous measures were taken to ensure tribal development.
    • To ensure spread of education, medical facilities, bringing them into mainstream society.
    • Broadly divided into three categories 1) Mobilizational 2) Protective 3)Developmental
    • Worldwide experience of modern development process often leading to conflict and destruction of tribal lifestyle( in America, Africa, Australia) was kept in mind, and a slow process directed by Panchsheel principle was to be adopted.
    • The customary rights of the tribals over resources were to be honored.
    • But, the approach adopted has been quite the contrary.
    • Tribal interests and welfare often was at loggerheads with imperatives of national development .
    • Development was seen as a important tool to bring tribals into societal mainstream.
    • Infrastructure, industries, dams, mines etc .
    • Mineral and forest resources were exploited
    • Much of India’s mineral and forest wealth lay in tribal areas, leading to an inevitable conflict.
    • Historically, Tribals have always been in a continuous process of integration with ever larger economies.
    • Food gathering to peasants.
    • Communal ownership to private ownership of land.
    • The Developmental policies drastically altered the relationship of tribes with natural environment and resources.
    • Changed the pattern and methods of ownership and usage.
    • Land and forest most exploited, fundamentally altering the tribal way of life.
    • Land made a saleable private property.
    • Unscrupulous methods used. Modern communication and transport technologies hastened the process.
    • High migrations and uprooting.
    • The dissatisfied tribals now turn to Naxalites.
    • Depletion of forest resources.
    • Furthermore, developmental projects have seen large scale immigration of people from outside, in search of employment, thus distorting demographics.
    • Often tribals become minorities in their own traditional living areas.
    • Sometimes it has also lead to oppression of indigenous populations.
    • The benefits of large scale expansion of industries and infrastructure, never reaches these tribals .
    • Employment opportunities are denied to them.
    • Overall development of tribal areas has had a deleterious effect on tribals. They are increasingly subjected to oppression and exploitation.
    • This has contributed to rise of Naxalite movements .
    • The above policies have also led to environmental destruction.
    • Earlier , Tribals were themselves seen as hindrance to development.
    • Their traditional socio-economic and cultural systems blamed.
    • Tribals represented as backward, ignorant, superstitious.
    • Hence, the emphasis has been on introducing values attitudes, and institutions that would help them take advantages of fruits of development.
    • This strategy, of late has been changed and it is now recognized that development would be more effective if it is in line with traditional values of tribals.
    • Development without or at minimal cost to ecology and environment.
    • Tribes are now seen as ‘alternate’ in which a solution lies.
    • Realization that conservation is not possible without participation of rural and tribal communities.
    • India is not the only country where mining and industrialization in tribal areas is linked with retarded economic performance.
    • Resource curse.
    • Blame on institutional weakness and political economy.
    • People embrace Naxalism due to present model of development.
    • It gains popularity by focusing on attainment of tribal self determination and control over local resources.
    • Crisis of political empowerment.
    • Naxalites have attacked both private companies and government institutions.
    • The government has acted in a stubborn manner, myopically seeing it as only a ‘internal security threat’.
    • Need to recognize the failure of governance, understand the basic reasons and to have political will to institutionalize alternative policies.
    • To give people and communities the right to say ‘no’ to a developmental project.
    • The law concerns the rights of forest dwelling communities to land and other resources, denied to them over decades as a result of the continuance of colonial forest laws in India.
    • Supporters of the Act claim that it will redress the "historical injustice”.
    • It will provide a legal right for communities themselves to protect the forest.
    • Opponents of the law claim it will lead to massive forest destruction and should be repealed.
    • They see it as a ‘land redistribution exercise’.
    • The Law as passed in 2006 has the following basic points.

1) Types of Rights

2) Eligibility Criteria

3) Process of Recognition of Rights

4) Resettlement for Wildlife Conservation

    • Any corresponding law for mineral and rights over other kind of resources yet to be formulated.
    • Mechanism needed to divert benefits to people rather than government machinery or private sector.

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